Monday, April 28, 2008

May 5, 2008


Not long ago Shane "Locutus" Shields wrote an interesting blog entitled, "What is the use of standards?" whereby he expressed his disillusionment with standards in the Information Technology (I.T.) field. His discontent is not without precedence. Most of us have at one time or another yearned for standards in our work effort, only to be thwarted by the grim realities of an industry that doesn't like to embrace standards. We all admit standards are a good idea and we should all be heading in that direction, someday... but that day never seems to come because there are forces at play deliberately resisting such efforts.

First, the primary reason for standards is to seek some sort of conformity in our work effort. Such uniformity simplifies product development, maintenance, usability, and, God forbid, the interchangabiity of component parts. Standards materially improves communications between people and saves time, simply because everyone has accepted and adapted to the standard, thereby causing them to communicate on a common level (aka, "on the same page"). Imagine where the entertainment industry would be today if there were no standards in musical composition. People would have to reinvent the expression of music with each new song. But because we took the time to develop standards, musical composition can be read and written by anyone on the planet. This also means standards can be taught and applied on a universal basis.

Standards also provides a means to measure work effort, which is one reason why some people object to them. Instead of performing in a uniform manner that can be compared and contrasted to others, some I.T. people prefer nonconformity to cloak their work effort in secrecy, thereby clouding comparisons. The excuse from such people is that they do not want to be "encumbered" or "stifled" by standards. In reality, they are just trying to protect their job.

Without standards, cooperation and communications between parties breaks down. From this we can deduce that standards is an inherent part of teamwork. Instead of the chaos involved in a heterogeneous environment (where everyone is allowed to "do their own thing"), standards offers the tranquility of a homogeneous environment where people are all "rowing on the same oar" in a concerted manner. From this perspective, it could easily be argued that standards promotes productivity in the workplace. This means standards require an intuitive manager who understands the value of teamwork and uniformity in work effort. Unfortunately, most managers today still prefer "rugged individualism" instead, representing the antithesis of teamwork.

Another problem facing standards is the reality that whoever dominates market share becomes the de facto standard and jealously defends it from intruders. We have seen this on more than one occasion in the I.T. field and frankly there is little we can be do about it. We could turn to government agencies to act as arbitrators, but they have not proven to be an effective vehicle for the establishment of standards, at least in the I.T. field. Instead, a coalition of industry related companies would perhaps be a better alternative, with maybe some government prodding to move things along.

But my biggest concern in terms of standards is their enforcement. I think we are now at a point in the I.T. industry where we must admit standards are useless without some form of automation to substantiate adherence to them. Over the years I have seen numerous attempts at standardization in the I.T. field and those that are simply enforced by human judgment, such as through a bureaucratic processes, inevitably dies a slow death. Without some form of automation to validate conformity to standards, the human being will find a way to avoid complying with them. Sad, but true.

One of the benefits of growing older is that your hindsight becomes clearer. Although I have seen numerous attempts at standardization in the I.T. field, it is hard to find any true standards as vendors have all put their own unique spin on it. For example, COBOL was intended to be the first universal programming language, but this never happened as hardware manufacturers implemented their own nuances in their compilers, thereby creating multiple interpretations of COBOL. Perhaps the only true standard I've come across in this industry was ASCII text which was invented by Robert W. Beamer.

Back in 1970 my father first called for industry-wide standards for the development of systems. This was done at the annual convention of the old Data Processing Management Association (DPMA; now the Association of Information Technology Professionals - AITP). At the time, DPMA was a powerhouse in terms of size and resources and could have easily undertaken such an effort but, unfortunately, balked at doing so, as has numerous other industry associations.

One recent attempt has been the "Business Analysis Body of Knowledge" (BABOK) by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), which is an interesting set of tips and techniques, but is certainly no means a body of standards. For example, there is no defined conceptual foundation or glossary of terms defining such fundamental concepts as "system," "business process," "procedure," "software," "information," "data," etc. These are all taken for granted and it assumes everyone has the same interpretation (which they most certainly do not). Although it is well meaning, it misses the mark. Without a conceptual foundation, the techniques embodied in the document, are like trying to build an atomic bomb without first knowing E = MC2.


Standardization offers the benefits of uniformity, predictability, interchangeability, and harmony. If this is not of interest to you, than there is little point in trying to participate in a standards program. But if you do wish to participate, understand there is more to implementing standards than to just say "that's just how it is going to be done." There has to be some sound rationale for their governance. In addition, you must address the enforcement issue. Standards will be adhered to by the degree of discipline instilled in the staff; If well disciplined, your chances for success are good, but if discipline is lax, automation is required to assure standards are being followed.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith!

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...

"It is one thing to enact legislation, quite another to enforce it."


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


When you visit companies in Japan you are often struck by the formality of business introductions. First, meetings have to be carefully "arranged" so that the right people meet, at the right time, and in the right setting. Impromptu meetings are typically avoided but when the occasion arises they can also turn rather formal. Normally, a third person is charged with making the introductions and his or her words are chosen carefully to denote superior/subordinate relationships. Business cards are not just carelessly exchanged but rather formally presented in a certain manner. It is also quite common to exchange small gifts to commemorate the event. There is also, of course, a lot of bowing as well as firm handshakes.

The Japanese consider introductions to be a very important part of establishing business relations and takes it all very seriously. In contrast, Americans tend to be much more cavalier in their approach to personal introductions. It wasn't always like this. In fact, at one time it was almost as formal as the Japanese, but this has changed radically over the years.

In terms of handshakes, we still have the "glad hander" which is typically used by politicians as they work the crowd. The idea is to try and shake as many hands as possible, as fast as possible. The "glad hander" approach is not very sincere as the person rarely looks the other in the eye. Instead, he or she is just going through the mechanics of the handshake.

Of course, we still have people who offer a "vice grip" handshake as a form of intimidation, as well as the "milk toast" shake representing the weakling. Both of these still leave a lot to be desired. Most Americans just want a simple and sincere handshake when meeting a person along with some eye contact to convey sincerity.

But recently, I experienced a new type of handshake which I like to call the "Cool Dude." This was from a young person who I judged to be in his early to mid 20's. The introduction came at an industry association meeting held after work at a hotel. As I was introduced to the young person by my host, the young man swung his right arm way back before extending his hand to offer a rather quick and superficial handshake. I also observed he avoided eye contact as I presumed he considered himself to be "too cool" to do so. Instead of a good "How do you do?" I was treated to a "Wassup?" Frankly, I was taken aback by the "Cool Dude" as it struck me as something I might see on Comedy Central, but not in a business setting.

This all made me wonder what kind of message the young man thought he was conveying. Was he too cool for a proper introduction or was this representative of the way young people introduce themselves these days? Whatever it was, it certainly put me off and the young man immediately lost all credibility with me.

I guess I'm "old school" as I believe in the value of introductions; maybe not to the level of formality as practiced in Japan, but I appreciate the necessity of them. The intent is to set people off on the same level and to develop a rapport. But if the "Cool Dude" is the shape of things to come, I see some real social problems emerging in the years ahead. I guess the next thing will be no more handshakes whatsoever and we'll just touch mechanical devices together (like cell phones) in order to exchange introductory data. God how I miss the 20th century.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.

Also, if you happen to be in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, be sure to stop by and check out our new Palm Harbor Business OASIS, a new business venue offering local business people a place to meet, work, network, and relax. Why pay a lot for leasing office space when you can become a member of the OASIS for as little as $100/month? For more information, visit our web site at:


I received the following e-mail from my "Pet Peeve" on "Financial Talking Heads":

An E.A. of Midland, MI wrote...

"You have brought up a valid point. I also believe that some of the reporting such as speculation about where, say gas prices are heading, is not in our best interest. I think the inflation in the late 70's and early 80's was exacerbated by news reports. The expectations that things are going to get worse become a self fulfilling prophecy. What restraints are on any part of the system if the daily reporting is to expect higher prices; it will happen."

An I.L. in Kansas City, Missouri wrote...

"I am so glad I have a job so I don't have to watch any sort of daytime TV. My brain is already rotting from the night time TV I am watching. I normally switch the TV over to the History Channel which is much more interesting."

I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "Packaging":

A B.H. in Monterey, California wrote...

"Here's a consumer that pours a cocktail or takes a tranquilizer before making any attempt at opening a package. (Not really, but you get the idea.) The frustration level takes me to to new heights! Vaccum-packed plastic is the ultimate worst! You have to be Superman to get into a new lipstick; the packaging of women's cosmetics is unbelievable. I purchased a new movie the other day. By the time I wrestled with the sheer outer plastic wrapper, searched the house twenty minutes for an Exact-o knife to peel off the 1/4" strip of adhesive tape that keeps the cover closed, and FINALLY figured out how to open the flat, sealed plastic case........I didn't even want to watch the movie. Worse than the frustration is the waste. It's sinful. Good article, Tim. Thanks for allowing me to rage for a minute. Enjoy your cigar."

An N.K. in Florida wrote...

"Have you ever purchased a CD and tried to play it?? That is also a packaging nightmare!"

I received the following e-mails from my article entitled, "Change: What lies ahead?":

An I.L. in Kansas City, Missouri wrote...

"I think the next 20 years or so are going to be one hell of a ride. Climatic changes, more new technology, financial collapse, bio-terrorism, bio-fuels, genetic engineering, nano-technology ... the list goes on and on. It is going to be an interesting time to be alive."

An E.V. in Romeo, Michigan wrote...

"Too many people do not pay attention to news beyond what affects them today. They don't want to have to worry about what's happening far away from them and complain, instead, that the U.S. polices the world. In that case, looks like we weren't policing enough. Yet, people are again complaining that we're policing. Another crisis is coming that we might have been able to avoid."

Again, thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

If you have any questions or would like to be placed on our e-mailing list to receive notification of future broadcasts, please e-mail it to

For a copy of past broadcasts, please contact me directly.

We accept MP3 files with your voice for possible inclusion in the broadcast.

There is no charge for adding a link to "Management Visions" on your web page, for details and HTML code, see the "Management Visions" web site.

Management Visions accepts advertising. For rates, please contact yours truly directly.

Copyright © 2008 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home